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ISAM Show Heads to the Beach

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The International Swimwear/Activewear Market showed its product where it is most likely to be used, holding its show for the first time a few blocks from the beach instead of at downtown’s California Market Center,...

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The International Swimwear/Activewear Market showed its product where it is most likely to be used, holding its show for the first time a few blocks from the beach instead of at downtown’s California Market Center, where it has shown for the past two decades.

The show, which ended its three-day run Friday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and in a tented pavilion in its parking lot, housed 84 companies, on par with last year’s lineup. Summer trends, including natural tones, wooden and crystal embellishments and halters, continued for the cruise season.

Vendors and buyers generally welcomed the new location — and the casual, airy mood that went with it.

“There’s a real positive energy coming from this show and I’m surprised at the turnout,” said Manhattan Beachwear’s vice president of sales Alan Schwartz, as the beach breeze and sunshine flooded in through one of several open flaps in the tent.

Some manufacturers had worried last year that the two-day overlap with downtown’s junior sportswear market would mean department store buyers and top execs might skip a beach-bound ISAM. But teams from Macy’s West, Dillard’s, Burdine’s, Proffitt’s and Carson Pirie Scott made the rounds on the swim show’s opening day.

“It tells me that upper management is interested in our industry,” said Susan Crank, chief executive of the Anaheim, Calif.-based Lunada Bay.

And on the flip side, Jean Sterman, a buyer for the the Milwaukee-based Carson’s, said coming to the beach had a positive effect: “It’s good to get in that frame of mind when buying swim.”

The open, buyer-friendly format was good for mom-and-pop specialty stores as well.

“It’s easy to get to, and parking is easier,” said Jayne Braga, owner of 23 West in Newport Beach, Calif. “It’s more relaxed. Plus, everything is in one area instead of on different floors, which makes vendors easier to find and cuts time.”

Not everyone was quite as upbeat. “We’re saturated by the Miami and New York markets. I think as those shows grow in importance, there’s less of a need for ISAM as it is now,” said Alex Bhathal, executive vice president of Tustin, Calif.,-based Raj Manufacturing. “Coming so late in the season, it has turned into a specialty show for us.”

As it is, manufacturers and buyers won’t have a chance to get used to ISAM’s new digs. Next year, the show will appear in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Aug. 25-27, to coincide with WWDMAGIC.

Whether or not an additional October Los Angeles show will take place is yet to be determined by board-member vote, according to show director Barbara Brady.

Still, Raj’s Bhathal added that he’ll likely be in Las Vegas, and wherever ISAM shows next. “An August edition will mean it’s more a preview show than a working show, but if retailers are there, we’ll be there.”

Inside the civic auditorium, where the mood was a bit more subdued, Monica McNeel, sales manager of Santa Ana, Calif.,-based L Space, said she’d “prefer to stay in L.A. But if I have to go to Las Vegas, I will. I like the quality of the buyer at this show, but it could be better in Las Vegas.”

Lunada’s Crank echoed the sentiment. “I’m happy with the interest here, but going to MAGIC only gives us the opportunity to see more buyers and more management.”